The other day on Facebook, someone posed the question, “Can you be in a relationship without loving yourself?” I scrolled down to see the responses, and was surprised to see how many women answered “yes”. They said they were in relationships and knew they didn’t love themselves. They also acknowledged that while they were in relationships, they were abusive and unsatisfying, and often reported they didn’t know how to leave and move on.
Not long ago, I too was in their camp. After sharing a bad break up story, I once heard someone say of me, (thinking I was out of ear shot), “What self respecting person would allow herself to be treated like that?”
Uh, yeah, that would be me. I was at a complete loss when it came to boundaries. I had no idea why my life was unfolding as it was, I didn’t know I didn’t love myself, I didn’t know how, and I didn’t see how, because of it, I might be allowing or actually inviting people to treat me badly.
Can you Be in A Healthy Relationship Without Loving Yourself?
Yes, you can be in a healthy relationship without loving yourself, though it is more likely that you will find yourself in an unhealthy relationship. People who haven’t learned to love or value themselves can be less able to recognize and stop abusive behavior, less able to develop or maintain healthy boundaries with others, may not have developed self advocacy skills and often don’t know when and how to walk away from destructive relationships.
These skills can definitely be learned and it is worth the time and effort to learn. In doing so, we create a satisfying and wholesome life for ourselves and our loved ones, and waste less time in abusive and unsatisfying relationships.
How Do I Learn to Love Myself?
Learning to love oneself involves learning self acceptance, forgiveness, appreciation, taking responsibility for one’s self, and making healthy choices for oneself.
- Set aside “alone” time.
My therapist started me thinking when she asked me what I did in my “alone time”. I didn’t have “alone” time. So, my first assignment was to think of a few things I might do for myself—the key was spending 20 minutes (at first) doing something I loved, just for me, oh, and I was to be by myself.
2. Reconnect with your inner child.
I was to be playful and think back to when I was a child to try to reconnect to things that I really loved, things that made me happy and that I did for the fun of it. I wandered a toy store, I booked a day at the spa, I went for walks, and sat at the beach. Nothing seemed to really hit the spot, but it did feel good to have a little time to breathe. In those quiet moments, I was beginning to see how disconnected from myself I had become and finally realized
3. Begin Journalling
I stopped at a book store and found a beautiful journal and a special pen, and grabbed a few magazines with pictures that caught my eye. I bought some pretty colored crystals just because I liked looking at them. Little by little, I found myself connecting, sorting things out, and letting go of old stories. I read and journaled and read and journaled some more. I paid attention to how things made me feel inside as well as tuning in more deeply to my senses.
4. Try “Mirror Talk”
Then, after reading Louise Hay’s book, You Can Heal Your Life, I stood before my bathroom mirror and whispered to the overweight, beleaguered woman looking back at me, “I love you.” I cried. She cried. Something shifted. Each day, after my shower, I said “I love you” to the woman in the mirror. Over time we stopped crying when we said it. It started to feel good and warm my heart. Perhaps yoga, we thought. That might feel really good. Perhaps a 20 minute walk each day. Journals were piling up in my closet and spiritual books began to overtake my bookshelves. I lost weight. I bought new clothes. I grew my hair longer. Glimmers of joy began to sparkle through the mist.
The woman in the mirror became “me” and I started to like myself, just a little. It’s now been ten years since I said “I love you” to myself in the bathroom mirror. It’s been a ten year journey to actually learn to love and accept myself, but worth every second of the effort. As I read the struggles of the women answering the “can you be in a relationship and not love yourself” I wondered how we have come to a place where we grow to be women who don’t know how to love ourselves and how different it would be if we did.
5. Learning that it’s ok to say no;
In saying no to unkindness and abuse, people taking advantage of your good will, or your time you are creating healthy boundaries, eliminating stress and freeing up time to heal and grow as a person. With healthy boundaries, we are able to give from a “full cup” rather than from an unhealthy frazzled, overworked “empty cup”.
Learning to love ourselves enhances healthy relationships, impacts the behavior of those around us, and improve our own lives immeasurably.
How do I know if I love myself?
When you love yourself, you know your worth, you don’t settle for situations that are less than optimal for all involved. You find it’s easy to say no to people who don’t or can’t love us back and you know better than to run yourself out of gas, so you stop and get help well before then. When we love ourselves, we have standards and a compass that will always guide us to the right choice. Love…take the time to learn to love yourself: it changes everything.
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